Matt Kesler’s friendship with Alejandro Escovedo goes back nearly three decades, when the two met as members of different bands.
“We go back to his True Believers’days,” said Kesler, who plays bass for the Pedaljets. “We all played together. I have a poster from an Absolute Ceiling, Pedaljets and True Believers show at Parody Hall. It had to be the late 1980s.”
After that gig, the bands hung out at the home of Jim Strahm and Mike Niewald of Absolute Ceiling.
“Jim and Mike had the rock ’n’ roll house,” Kesler said. “That’s where the friendship was kindled.”
In 1989, Kesler opened Midwestern Musical Co. with Strahm, and Texas-based Escovedo became a loyal customer, a close friend and a frequent visitor to Kansas City.
“Al used to play Davey’s Uptown a lot, and when he was in town, he’d come to the store,” Kesler said. “He still plays a guitar of mine he’s had for at least 20 years.”
Strahm died of cancer in 2000, and Escovedo regularly pays tribute to him at his live shows. Kesler moved the store into the building behind Crossroads KC, at 19th and Locust. It closed last year.
Escovedo is back in town this week for two shows. Niewald invited him to play an event for Barton Perreira, the optical store he co-owns on the Country Club Plaza. Escovedo suggested that Kesler organize another show while Escovedo was in town and use local musicians to back him up, something he has already done.
“Back in 2011, I had a birthday party for me, an 11/11/11 party, and we put together a band for (Escovedo),” Kesler said.
Thursday night, Escovedo will again perform with Kansas City musicians. “An Evening With Alejandro Escovedo and Friends” begins at 8 p.m. at Knuckleheads. The show will open with Escovedo performing his album “A Man Under the Influence” in its entirety, backed by the Cody Wyoming Deal, featuring Wyoming and Chris Meck on guitar, Erik Voeks on bass, Paul Andrews on drums, Betse Ellis on violin and Christine Broxterman on cello.
When that set is done, Escovedo will perform a set with the makeshift local band Escovedo’d, which includes Kesler on bass, Rob Morrow on drums and Scott Mize and Lyle Wells on guitars.
“We’ll do some older stuff, some Stooges, some Mott the Hoople, some Sex Pistols,” Kesler said.
Wyoming, who played in Escovedo’s band in 2011, said playing one of his favorite Escovedo albums all the way through is a big honor.
“It has been a very cathartic process getting to know this album more closely,” he said. “It has always meant so much to me because it was there when I needed it. And it wasn’t just ‘there,’ it was … the right medicine that I needed at the time. It’s loaded with beauty and dissonance, hurt and healing, and loss and love and death and life.”
At 8 p.m. Thursday at Knuckleheads, 2715 Rochester, Alejandro Escovedo will perform his 2001 album “A Man Under the Influence” backed by the Cody Wyoming Deal, a band of Kansas City musicians. After that set, Escovedo will join Escovedo’d, another Kansas City band, to perform more of his own songs plus some covers. Tickets are $20 and are available via KnuckleheadsHonkyTonk.com.